After four years of mutual hatred, three and a half years of mutual massacres, after 635,000 dead Italian soldiers (not counting the French, British, American, Polish, Serbian, on the Italian front) and 1,100,000 Austro-Hungarians; a little more than a year after the Caporetto disaster and a few days after the last victorious Italian offensive of Vittorio Veneto, on the 3rdof November in Abano, at Villa Giusti, at 3 pm, the armistice between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire was signed which became effective as of November 4, 1918, the day that put an end to the war for Italy, one week before his allies and their enemies.
A merciless war where the worst of the human soul is unleashed – animals do not hate kill only to eat or defend themselves to be – as well described by Ernst Jünger in his book “The Inner Experience of Battle”:
In the battle, which stripped the man of every convention, like a beggar’s patched rags, the beast emerges, a mysterious monster emerging from the abyss of the soul […] When every thought, when every act leads back to a formula It is necessary that the feelings themselves regress and become confused, conform to the frightening simplicity of the objective: annihilate the adversary […] Of bloodlust among the others. It is beyond horror, the other flow that drowns the fighter in his foam, in a massacre of red waves: the intoxication, the thirst of blood, when the startling whirlwinds of destruction weigh on the field of rage. Strange that it is to be understood for those who have never fought to stay alive: the vision of the adversary power, in addition to a heap of horror, the release of a heavy and unbearable pressure. It is the voluptuousness of the blood, which hovers over the war like the red sail of storms on the tree of black jail, and whose unlimited impetus is not comparable to love […].
A war of suffering, of fear, of stupid orders, of useless offensives, where men lived in water or snow, in mud, in shit, among decomposing bodies, rats and parasites, where death was the only horizon and the most faithful companion, where men counted less than the material, puppets in the hands of senior officers focused on the offensive to the bitter end, without mercy, where the soldiers on both sides recognized themselves as brothers in arms even if they were enemies, knowing that they suffered from same human stupidity and the same evils. The Italian painter-soldier Walter Giorelli gives of it a small idea:
Every place is a sepulcher and the mud that insults the boots is a stinking amalgam of earth, feces, urine, bone fragments and organic remains of all sorts. Beyond the borders of the barbed wire, unreachable because of the snipers, some unburied bodies change their appearance slowly, crossing all the stages of transition between the organic matter and the mota. The most recent ones, covered by a multitude of flies, are unraveled in colored castings. The smell of death is suffocating.
But how to say this war, we who not only have not lived it, but we who struggle to remember the somnambulism and stupidity of those who had wanted it, of the infernal nationalisms that was neither willing nor able to stop it, we who are not even able to draw the lessons for the present and for the future?
We who, presently, are not even able to unite all the fighting countries – not only generals from 12 of the belligerant countries, as will be the case in Trieste in Italy on the 4th of November – to create a collective memory and to resume the cry of the bloodless soldiers at the end of the war: “Never again!”
100 years after the end of the end of the first world war, Europe is starting again from the trenche? Podcast of the radio1 RAI programme “Caffè Europa” of Tiziana Di Simone with General Claudio Graziano, the historian Emilio Gentile and reading of soldiers’letter form the book of Thierry Vissol di lettere “Toby dalla pace alla guerra 1914-1918” Donzelli, 2014:
Both programme and book are only in Italian